Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gifts for Babies

From Linda Woodrow from The Witches Kitchen

In the community I live in, we have a tradition of making a quilt for any new baby. We choose a theme - for this one it was native animals, but others have been nursery rhymes, things that fly, beginnings, circles - and a background colour, and invite people to make a square. (Mine in this one was the native mouse eating a grass seed). We generally aim to have it made and ready to give a few weeks after the baby is born, at the first stage when parents are usually ready to bring him or her out to meet a largish group.

There are so many magnificent quilt makers online, and within the circles of people who contribute to this blog. This isn't that kind of quilt! Squares are made by kids and teenagers, men, women of all generations, people with no real needleworking skills. They are appliqued, embroidered, fabric painted, found, made from recycled fabrics and salvaged buttons and beads. Often the sewing together and backing is a real challenge to make stretch fabrics and non-square squares fit together.

Usually four or five of the better sewers have a "Sewing Together Day" to piece it all together, and that's the best fun. It is amazing how beautiful they always turn out. There is a moment when they are all first sewn together and laid out to admire when I always get a sense of wonder that the sum is so much more than the parts.

Mostly the quilts are used as play-mats rather than bed covers. The variety in the textures and colours, the images and connections are rich stimulants for a baby's play and imagination. Stories can be woven around the characters and language practiced on naming the animals. It's a lovely soft toy with no "Made in China" tag.

And I guess the no "Made in China" tag was the inspiration for this story. The shops in my town are filling up with toys in the lead up to Christmas, and it just seems so wasteful that so many of them, especially those designed for babies, are destined to end up in landfill in a matter of months. Mass produced soft toys with no character, art or craft to them.

Older kids are harder to do the handmade thing for. They have very particular and specific desires, and friends to compare with. (Although, having said that, my daughter's very favourite childhood gift was a hanging rail with a dozen handmade Barbie dresses, all on little wire coathangers - I was very proud of that one!)

But babies and little kids are such a joy to make gifts for. I'm making a list and checking it twice. I'm collecting ideas.